February 4, marks an important anniversary for “The Fastest Helicopter Alive”. It occurred 37 years ago. Many of its records still stand. Here is how it went down.
The Sikorsky S-76A production model was first delivered in 1979. It can configured to carry between 6 and 12 passengers. The helicopter is unique in that it has retractable landing gear and is configured for instrument flight. The whirlybird is deployed for air ambulance, search and rescue, a scheduled passenger airliner as well as executive transport.
The craft soared onto the aviation scene February 4 to 9, 1982. During those four days is when the craft made its mark. No less than 12 records were notched in a five-day flying period (they took February 7 off).
The bird reached a sustained altitude of 26,050. That is a mind-boggling altitude for a helicopter. Additionally, it reached altitude quickly, setting time to climb records to 3000 meters (almost 10,000 feet in 191 seconds) and 6,000 meters (nearly 20,000’ in 8 minutes 37 seconds)
More impressive were the speed records. Over a 500-kilometer closed circuit, the Sikorsky averaged 214.83 mph). Another half a dozen speed records were set to boot.
So what became of the record setting bird? It operated as an air ambulance (talking about getting patients to medical aid quickly) until 2006. It was sold to a company in Brazil and operated as a ferry ship out to oilrigs. In December 2008, the bird caught fire while airborne. The crew limped the craft back to base and safely evacuated. However, the Sikorsky was badly damaged.
For more details on the records see https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/, which was the inspiration for this blog. Amazingly, 9 of the 12 records set thirty seven years ago still stand – surely the Fastest Helicopter Alive!